My history with bmi began with an excellent business class transatlantic flight from Manchester to Chicago O’Hare on the really beautiful A330-200 G-WWBM on June 13, 2003 (well technically my first BD flight was on BD 584 from LHR to MAN on Airbus A321 G-MIDK), and I have since been impressed with the high quality transatlantic service that bmi has offered. Unfortunately its transatlantic history is short, but I have since maintained my Star Alliance gold status through bmi diamond club. Despite flying only nine bmi flights in total, it is sort of sad to see the product goes downhill on the past decades and the discontinuation of transatlantic service. Ever since BA (well IAG) has announced its intent to buy bmi, I want to make sure that I get to fly “bmibaby” at least once and get a few new UK and Northern Ireland airports along the way. Since I need to be in London in late May to take a cruise with my family, I have arrived two days before my family did and spent one Sunday flying a few segments on this soon to be gone airline. I have to admit I am not particularly impressed with this new Economy Extra product and some of the staffs were sour-faced (not surprised given their uncertain future), but bmibaby is actually not a bad LCC, but not sure if using older generation of Boeing 737 will raise their profit line. Nonetheless the crews were cheerful and beat the BD flights. I have to take a flyBe reposition flight in between and decide to write about it too.
Here it goes!
May 20, 2012; Sunday
BD 52 LHR-EDI Lv0710 Arr0830 Airbus A320-200 G-MIDO
I once again chose to stay the newly opened Hilton Heathrow T-5 for this stay. The name is misleading because it is not particularly close to T-5 and requires a ride on the Heathrow Hoppa Bus, which costs GBP8RT. However the hotel is very nicely decorate and has good wifi throughout the hotel, which makes it ideal, compared to the original Hilton Heathrow attached to T-4. Unless I am using T-4, I will rather stay at this new Hilton T-5. Anyway, I took one of the ungodly early morning buses to T-1. Things were a bit quieter on Sundays and the premium check-in area was rather deserted. BD is still running most of the Star Alliance airlines operations at Heathrow, but LH/OS used one side, while BD passengers used the other side. Two agents were working the desks and both showed that they did not want to be there, and could not care less that I actually paid for economy extra and was a gold member. My seat assignment was also changed and I only discovered the change when I was at the gate. Despite a fancy premium check-in area, I would rate it underwhelming and honestly get better check-in experience with Jetstar Asia in Singapore.
Premium Check-in Area
Then I proceeded to the lounge and tried the Great London lounge, but the agent would not budge. I still did not know why I was denied entry. Anyway, I headed towards the domestic lounge, and due to the early hours and the dark décor of the lounge, pictures are not great. Food limits to mainly continental breakfast items including pasties, yogurt, fruits, and cereals. Plenty of newspapers and magazines are available.
London Room entrance – new BA sign
BD UK and Ireland Lounge
A last minute aircraft change from A319 to A320 – G-MIDO is used this morning
BD A320 G-MEDH next door
Gate 8c used this morning
BD 52 used gate 8c for boarding this morning, and the loading was about 2/3 full with economy extra mostly empty. For normal economy passengers, it is quite annoying that BD really squeezes them in the back and will rather leave rows of open seats than spreading them out. But for economy extra passengers, the privacy is appreciated and makes our money worthwhile. Boarding began at 6:42am and we managed to close the door early at 7:06am with 82 passengers aboard this morning. A number of passengers want to move up and the F/A just told them these seats are for a different class of economy passengers, which will receive different service. The pilots were very cheerful and professional, and kept on praising the F/A and even calling them industrious at one point. However it is irony to call the F/As industrious as they did minimal work (just one run with the food and beverage cart and a few trash runs with no intention to refill your tea cup) and remaining in the galley for the rest of the flight. They are cordial at best.
Jun 9, 12, 7:04 pm
Due to the light load, lots of cabin shot for this bmi upholstered A320 and I am glad that the flights are not operated by those hybrid LH Airbuses. A320 definitely feels roomier than A319. Love the smart brown leather seats and blue trimmed headrests!
We pushed back from parking spot 109 at 7:10am, and taxied towards R/W9R, which was quite a long way. We took off at 7:29am and our flying time was fifty-three minutes. Our routing took us towards Luton, Northampton, Leicester, and East Midland Airport and reached 38,000feet. Then we headed towards Dent, Penrith, Carlise, Musselburgh and turned back into EDI.
Due to the low ceiling, seat belt sign did not turn off till 7:38am. Food and beverage service began immediately. Two F/As passed out polyester placemats and then rolled out the food and beverage cart. I was only offered a choice of Breakfast tortilla or Scrambled egg, ham & mushroom wrap, along with choices of beverages. I asked for both OJ and hot tea and the F/A was fine.
Here was what I got:
However according to the menu, “Customers travelling in Flexible Economy: Our cabin crew are pleased to offer a complimentary hot wrap on flights over breakfast, lunch, and dinner, accompanied by a drink and snack of your choices.” But the F/A never offered any snacks and the F/As were not particularly personable. They were polite and professional, but the style of service was definitely more LCC than a proper full service airline. Of course everything is served in plastic glass and cup. The wrap was okay.
More Cabin shot after breakfast
Seat in recline mode – very small recline
We began to descent at 11:40am and it was a beautifully but chilly day at EDI.
We landed on R/W24 at 8:22am.
Approaching Edinburgh airport – my first time
Monarch Boeing 757-200 G-DAJB heading to Pafos PFO
United Airlines 757-200 Winglet N41140 heading back to Newark
BA City Flyer EMB-190 G-LCYJ
BD A320 G-MIDT heading to LHR later in the afternoon
Jun 9, 12, 7:05 pm
We parked at Gate 7 five minutes later and Gate 7 did not have a jet bridge, which was fine by me and I got take some nice shots within any window influence.
I had a few hours at Edinburgh and loved the large windows.
BA A321 G-EUXE back to LHR
BD A320 G-MIDO back to LHR as well
The airport itself was actually good with lots of food outlets and nice seating areas. I had a late breakfast at one of the food outlets.
BE 844 EDI-BHX Lv1050 Arr1200 Dash 8-Q400 G-ECOF
Check-in area at flyBe was not particularly busy yet, as my inbound flight arrived early. Lots of good flybe advertisement around, and flyBe has a whole area of check-in area. I used the kiosk and glad that they use the real card paper stock, instead of those flimsy papers. I pre-booked a window seat and from the seat map, the flight was 100% full.
BE E-190 at a remote parking slot
Despite the availability of lots of empty parking sots at EDI low coast airlines wing, flyBE made all the passengers to crowd into a bus and then traveled five minutes to another parking spot. Such planning made me wonder why? I did not mind boarding through stairs but it looked ironic that BE could not even afford to park the plane in front of the gate (no jet bridge). If Ryannair can afford it, BE should be able to. The bus ride was unpleasant at best. Thankfully the weather was cold, not hot and humid.
Boarding began at 10:26am at gate 15 and we waited every passenger to board and the agent receiving her final paperwork before the bus drove over a few blocks at spot 27. BTW BE weighs carryon bag and uses the sizer obsessively. Please don’t over-pack and think that you can sneak in an overweight carry on bag.
G-ECOF at EDI
The flight was uneventful. Door was closed on time at 10:50am and the flight was packed to the grill. We pushed back a minute later and took off from R/W06 at 11:05am. Flying time was fifty-seven minutes and we stayed at 25,000feet. Cabin service was buy on board food and beverage, followed by onboard merchandise sales. Two F/As were on board and they were a bit more cheerful than my last flight in BD. They greeted passengers in boarding and completed all their works in good spirits. I did not take part of any of the service and slept for most of the flight. Descent began around at 11:40am and we landed on R/W33 at 12:02pm in Birmingham International, another new airport for the day. We parked at gate 14 again and no jet bridge was used. I did not mind because I got to see this…
G-ECOF at Birmingham
WW 1021 BHX-BHD Lv1645 Arr1750 Boeing 737-300 G-TOYI “tinylife baby”
Birmingham International airport is also a new UK airport for me and I honestly prefer EDI’s layout a bit better. The airport has a couple of check-in areas and is pretty crowded on this Sunday afternoon with lots of families traveling and a number of international flights including Emirates and Turkish Airlines and many charter flights on Thompson and Monarch. There is a food court before entering the secure area. I had a lunch at a pub style restaurant.
I went to the ticketing desk to ask if I would be able to go through security four hours prior to flight. The staff was very friendly and even told me that if security had issues with my home printed boarding pass, she could print me a new one.
BMI Baby check-in area – quite deserted as I arrived early and most of its late afternoon flights’ check-ins had yet to open and most of its late morning flights were in boarding phases.
Lots of cute advertisement
Ad above WH Smith on the main departure hall
The security area was very busy this afternoon and it took me more than thirty minutes to go through. I then spent the next few hours at the Servisair lounge and the airport remained pretty busy. I also tracked locations of various WW aircraft and ended up guessing that G-TOYI on an Amsterdam run will be flying to Belfast this afternoon. The aircraft made it to Amsterdam early and returned early as well. Good impression.
BHX has a number of interesting international airlines flying to, and this afternoon, Emirates even has its own lounge here. A6-ECZ a Boeing 777-300ER worked EK 40 this afternoon, and along with the mix, Pakistan has a Boeing 777-200ER flight to Islamabad and AP-BGK arrived on time. Turkish sent a 737-800 here TC-JEF but the flight was running an hour late today. Then I spotted this interesting plane Turkmenistan Air Boeing 757 EZ-A012. I took a number of pictures, as this plane don’t really come to the US.
Of course G-TOYI was already back from Amsterdam and getting ready at gate 55 – Spot “56L”. Gate 55 has no actual jet bridge but allows the flight to board from both the front and aft and of course, more photo opportunities for me and quicker turnaround time.
Jun 9, 12, 7:06 pm
Boarding began at 4:18pm and two staffs were taking care of the process. Both of them are very friendly. The flight went out 100% full.
Close-up to the aircraft during boarding
Due to the full flight, I can’t take too many cabin pictures but manage a few. I paid extra for the exit row seat, which was definitely a worthy investment. The vinyl blue seats are interesting choice but I guess it fits the “blue” branding of bmi products. Legroom looks tight for regular seats though.
Couple random advertisement in the bulkhead rows
G-TOYH “baby of the north” arrived from Knock
Our flight ended up being late on push back due to the carry on bags issues. Despite a strict carry on policy, the bins of this Classic Boeing 737s are not fitted with expanded bins at all. Three F/As tried their best but had to offload a few carry on in the end. Door was closed at 4:52pm and pushed back three minutes later. G-TOYI took off at 5:02pm from R/W33, and flying time was a short thirty-eight minutes. The routing took us over Cannock, Stafford, and Liverpool before reaching 28,000feet, and then over Douglas of Isle of Men.
Shortly after takeoff
Over wing shot
Three F/As worked pretty hard on this flight – definitely more industrious than the mainline bmi flights. Due to the short flight, the first announcement concerned passengers ordering hot meals – yes a couple of hot meals were available. Also they did not have time for a separate duty free goods run, so passengers have to advise them if they need to buy any merchandises during the run.
Buy On Board Menu
Descent began at 5:22pm and we landed on R/W22 at 5:40pm. Belfast City airport is a typical city airport with short single runway and a small operation. It serves mainly bmi, bmibaby and FlyBe. We parked at gate 7 a few minutes later. G-OBMP “robin hood baby” was spotted next door and the plane was heading to London Stansted.
G-TOYI at BHD
Jun 9, 12, 7:07 pm
G-OGBD just arrived from Amsterdam
BD 93 BHD-LHR Lv1945 Arr2100 Airbus A319-100 G-DBCH
Here comes the final flight of the day and most likely my final flight on bmi.
Check-in area of BHD
Three major airlines only – BD, BE, and WW, and couple regional airlines
Bmi baby area
There is a priority check in line and kiosks are readily available.
Since I arrived a bit early, check-in area was not too busy. As typical at city airport, people came in late or could afford a later check-in cutoff time. The agent this time was a bit friendlier and made sure that I knew that fast track was available for gold members and made sure I know where the lounge was.
The lounge itself was rather nice and passengers got their own private boarding channels directly from the lounge. Food includes tomato soup, packaged snacks, and various food itemds, as well as a full array of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Jun 9, 12, 7:07 pm
A number of flyBe airplanes
Finally G-DBCH arrived from LHR on time and parked at spot number “4” – the only jet bridge equipped gate.
Boarding began at 7:23pm and passengers in the lounge boarded the plane directly from the lounge, which was nice and priority access could somewhat enforced. The flight was much busier on the return flight in the back, but economy extra has three passengers and we got three rows to ourselves. Once again, one F/A, the senior purser, was in charge of the small cabin. A more experienced F/A was working our flight this evening.
More cabin shot
Door was closed at 7:38pm and we took off from R/W22 at 7:47pm.
Some beautiful scenery on takeoff run
Beautiful wing shots along the flight
The F/A was friendlier and more experienced on this segment, and once again complimentary beverages, snacks, and hot wraps were offered. She offered me a choice of two hot wraps – Chicken Tandoori or Margherita (Vegetarian), and other snacks were available, such as Kit Kat, Pringles, and Muffins. In the end, I got the chicken wrap, which was better than expected. I still think something better can be offered. I also asked for a Kit Kat this time. Instead of trolley, the purser just took our ordered and delivered the food to our seat. More professional and personal for sure!
Here is my dinner this time
A final shot of the wing
A word about the seat, I was in Row 2 again, but felt that A319s seem to have a bit less legroom, and the seats were not as comfortable as A320s.
Anyway, descent began at 8:12pm and we landed on R/W9L at 8:37pm and quickly parked at spot 176 three minutes later and twenty minutes earlier than expected.
In conclusion, it is a nice way to say goodbye to bmi by flying both the mainline and LCC (I flew regional previously), and diamond club, except the Indian call centers, has treated me well and brought me many nice trips around the world. BMI Baby is definitely the surprise and too bad this LCC is going to be gone completely. I hope you enjoy this report, despite it involves airlines that are all well known in various sites. It is good to have a little ending for myself. I wish all the BD and WW staff good luck in finding new jobs or having a decent career at BA.
Thanks for reading,
Jun 10, 12, 3:50 pm
Thanks for posting. I've always loved the bmi branding and will be sad to see it go.
Sadly, despite its branding, I've always preferred BA to bmi, and it would seem many others felt the same.